An open letter to Antonio Maria Costa

Antonia Maria Costa, the UN “Drug Czar”, has written a letter to the guardian asking “How many lives would have ben lost if we didn’t have controls on drugs”. It riled me up enough that I had to shoot off a response:

One has to wonder if Mr. Costa believes the nonsense he is promulgating, or he is simply performing his function as a propaganda minister for the prohibition industry to the best of his abilities. Both could reasonably be the case.

He posts the question

How many lives would have been lost if we didn’t have controls on drugs?

and goes on to discuss the current policy of drug prohibition as though “control”, “prohibition”, and “regulation” were synonymous. They are, of course, not. We have systems of control in place for the regulation of of alcohol and tobacco, both of which are significantly more dangerous and more addictive than many drugs which are currently prohibited my most nations (for example Cannabis, LSD, Ecstasy). By comparing the effect of regulation of alcohol against the effect of prohibition of alcohol, we can easily see that we protect our citizenry better through regulation than we do through prohibition. Regulation results in less crime, less overdose, less underage use, in short more control than does prohibition.

The current prohibitionist policies and irrational assessments of drug harm result in a situation that is quite simply out of control, and this is what we in the “legalization chorus” object to. Or does Mr. Costa wish to make the claim that things are in control in, say, Mexico? Or the United States for that matter?

How many lives would have been saved if our children had been obtaining honest information about the relative harms of drugs, rather than dishonest propaganda? How many lives would have been saved if our addicts (I am writing as an American here) could have gotten treatment and counselling for their problems instead of getting labelled as a criminal and ostracised as a criminal? How many lives would have been saved if clean needles were freely available? How many lives have been lost in botched drug raids, in drug violence?

The facts, Mr. Costa, speak against you, and your rhetoric and word-play is too weak to obscure them. Of course we need controls on harmful substances. We in the chorus are not asking you to stop controlling potentially harmful substances. We are asking out governments to regulate them. We simply want sane and rational regulation, rather than jingoistic prohibition.

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